Home > The Crown (The Selection #5)(13)

The Crown (The Selection #5)(13)
Kiera Cass

“Good day today!” someone called. Not someone. I would have recognized Henri’s greeting even in the grave.

I lifted my head to smile and wave at him and Erik. I kind of loved that Henri was impervious to the sadness hanging over the palace. And Erik seemed to be the hand that guided his charge back down to Earth, calm and kind, regardless of what happened around him.

Osten and Kaden walked in with Kile, their heads together as they moved. Kile was trying to make them smile—I could read it in his body language—and, for their part, they gave him small, tight-lipped grins. Ean entered with Hale and Fox, and I was pleasantly surprised to see him finally interacting with some of the others. Gunner trailed behind them as if forgotten. I’d kept him in the Elite because I couldn’t shake how his poem had made me laugh. But beyond that, I hardly knew him. I was going to have to try harder with him, with all of them.

My brothers sat down together at their normal places, more subdued than usual. Seeing our family table so empty sent a pang of sadness through my whole body. That type of sorrow, the quiet, lonely kind, can take over so quickly that a person could miss it. I could see it trying to creep into my brothers now, in the way they held their heads a little lower, probably not even aware they were doing it.

“Osten?” He peeked over at me, and I could feel the Elite’s eyes on us. “Do you remember the time Mom made us pancakes?”

Kaden started laughing, turning to the others to tell the story. “Mom used to cook a lot growing up, and every once in a while she’d make food for us, just for fun. The last time she tried was maybe four years ago.”

I smirked. “She knew she was out of practice, but she wanted to make us blueberry pancakes. The thing was, she wanted to arrange the berries in them so they made stars and flowers and faces. But she left the batter on the griddle so long to put the berries in that when she flipped the pancakes, they were all burned.”

Osten laughed. “I do remember! I remember the crunchy pancakes!”

I heard chuckles from the Elite.

“You were so bad, though, you didn’t even try one!” Kaden accused.

I nodded shamefully. “It was self-preservation.”

“They were pretty good, actually. Crispy, but good.” Osten took a bite of one of the pancakes in front of him. “They make these ones seem weak.”

I heard one loud chuckle and saw that Fox was shaking his head. “My dad’s an awful cook, too,” he said, projecting his voice. “We grill a lot, and he’s always saying it’s ‘charred.’” Fox lifted his fingers to quote the word.

“What he actually means is burned, yeah?” Gunner asked.

“Yep.”

“My father,” Erik said timidly. I was surprised he wanted to join in the conversation, and I found myself leaning my head on my elbow, drawn in. “He and my mother have this one dish they make for each other, and it requires frying. The last time he made it, he left the room while it was cooking, and the smoke was so bad, they had to move in with me for two days while they aired the house out.”

“Do you have a spare room?” Kile asked.

Erik shook his head. “No. So my living room became my bedroom, which was a treat when my mom woke up at six and decided to start cleaning.”

Gunner laughed in agreement. “Why do parents always do that? And always on the one day you can sleep in?”

I squinted. “Can’t you just ask them not to?”

Fox laughed wildly. “Maybe you can, Your Highness.”

I was very aware that I was being teased, but I knew it was all in good fun.

Hale spoke up. “Speaking of which, is anyone else worried about being incredibly spoiled if you lose and have to go home after living like this?” He gestured to the table and room.

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